Posts Tagged picnic

31 Before 31 Results

I wasn’t even close to doing everything on my 31 Before 31 list, but I’m glad I wrote it because it really did help me to focus on my goals.  Here are the results!

Stuff that I did:

2.  Hike to the peak of Mount Tamalpais.  Done, and it was so awesome that I’m hoping to go back soon and do an even longer hike!  Here are a few pictures.

San Francisco skyline in the background

4.  Take a kickboxing class.  It was literally one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life.
5.  Try acupuncture.  It didn’t help with the issue I went for, but it sure was interesting!
6.  Borrow a foreign cuisine non-vegan cookbook from the library and try at least three recipes.  I chose Mexico One Plate At A Time by Rick Bayless.  His recipes looked so good that it was hard to choose only three.

Potato Chorizo Tacos with Avocado Salsa (recipe posted here).  These were so good, and so easy to make!  I used Trader Joe’s Soyrizo.

Smoky Chipotle Beans with Wilted Spinach and Masa Dumplings (recipe posted here).  You soak dried black beans, then cook them with onion and garlic, and it turns it to this wonderful, thick broth.  Then you add in tomato, chipotle and spinach, and simmer the masa dumplings on top.  This took some time to make, but the flavor was so worth it.  The side dish is my attempt at turnips Gracias Madre-style.

Chipotle Chicken Salad Tacos (lettuce wraps) and Red Rice.    I reduced the oil in the salad and left off the avocado, and the salad really could’ve used one or the other to balance the flavor – it was SPICY.  For the rice, I followed Bayless’ directions to substitute brown rice for white, and while the rice was cooked through the dish was still watery.  Tasty though.

8.  Advertise personal chef services at discounted rate.  Done.
13.  Register for Vida Vegan conference.  Yes!  I’m going!
15.  Get trumpet cleaned.
16.  Fix and update iTunes library.
19.  Plant herbs in the flower box.

planted mid-April - oregano, flat leaf parsley, sage, cilantro, curly parsley, basil

mid-May, not looking quite as good. The left side is faring better than the right. The parsley has actually made a comeback since this photo.

20.  Get a few houseplants and try to keep them alive.  I’m still working on the keeping them alive part.
21.  Get a new phone.  Got an iPhone, and love it!
22.  Learn some basic conversational Spanish.  I’m through chapter 12 of Spanish for Dummies and can say more words and phrases than before, so I consider this done.  I’m going to keep working on it.
24.  Visit a city I’ve never been to.  Done twice – Clayton GA and Mendocino CA.
27.  Go to SFMOMA or the de Young.  Went to SFMOMA in December.  Favorite sculpture:

31.  Go on a picnic.  I took a picnic lunch on my Mt. Tam hike.

Tempeh Salad from Vegweb, made with half the mayo and tamari, on a multigrain wrap with Persian cucumbers and red bell pepper.

Stuff I did not do, which may or may not be on my 32 before 32 list:

1.  Jog 2 miles without feeling like dying afterward.  (I have been jogging, but my stamina isn’t up to two miles straight yet.)
3.  Work up to ten real push ups.  (I tried, but am not even close.)
7.  Finalize the list of recipes for my zine idea and work on at least five recipes.
9.  Enter all of the recipes I Have printed into Living Cookbook database.  (I didn’t realize what a huge project this is.  Am chipping away at it little by little.)
10.  Read at least chapters 5-7 of On Food and Cooking.
11.  Change blog template.
12.  Update blog roll.
14.  Invest in some props for food photography and take more interesting pictures.
17.  Go to a symphony concert.
18.  Finalize the list of songs for cover album project and start to think about style/arrangements.
23.  Take a day trip up or down highway 1.
25.  Go to Millennium and order the Frugal Foodie prix fix menu.
26.  Take an SF City Guide walking tour.
28.  Host a dinner party.
29.  Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge.
30.  Watch the eight movies on this list that I haven’t seen.

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Vegan Weekends (or, The Post of Many Pictures)

Against my predictions, June was just as crazy for me as May, if not a bit crazier.  Almost every day of every weekend was booked, and then some.  So without further ado, here’s what I’ve been up to for the last five weekends…

The first weekend of June we had some friends join in on our tailgating for an A’s game and bf and I kind of went all out.  BF has been interested lately in making our own buns for hamburgers, which translates into ME making our own buns for hamburgers.  I had seen some loaves of Easy French Bread from La Dolce Vegan floating around the blog world, so I made some buns using that recipe.

I forgot to add the sesame seeds until after the second rise, and in adding them and trying to make sure they didn’t fall off I basically pressed all the rise out of the buns, so they were a little flatter then I wanted.  They tasted good though, and were definitely sturdy enough to stand up to burgers.

I don’t know what got in to me, but I had a mad desire to make Ramen Slaw, which is a dish commonly found at southern pot lucks and the like.  I found and followed a recipe online, but for the life of me I can’t find it again.  I’ll post up the link when I get home.

Ramen slaw, up close and personal.

Post-almond topping.

Here’s my plate:  veggie burger on homemade bun, grilled corn that I accidentally set on fire (like for real, flaming husks and all) and ramen slaw.  I went back for seconds on the slaw, so good.

It was bf’s cousin’s birthday, so I made dessert too.  I had a hard time deciding but in the end wound up trying the Black Bottom Blondies from My Sweet Vegan.

The look innocent enough from the top…

Bonus chocolate layer!  These were tasty enough, but honestly I didn’t like the texture.  It was kind of gummy and dense.  I’m thinking I may have overbeaten the batter, but the instructions say to beat it!

The next Saturday I was invited to a picnic at Tilden Park to celebrate the marriage of my friends Becca and Steve.  They got married in New York, so this was a nice was for us to get together.  I was completely blanking on a good picnic food to bring, so I asked Becca and she suggested the ranch dressing that she had at my house once.  Easy enough!

The food was good and simple, perfect for a picnic.  First plate:  veggie burger, chips & hummus, veggies & ranch.

Second plate:  fruit salad, pasta salad, tofu and tomatoes and more cucumbers.

Third plate, just because the roasted red peppers and grilled zucchini were done.

Lucky for all of us, Melisser of Sugar Beet Sweets made cupcakes!

Gluten free strawberry shortcake and peanut butter cup.

La la lemon and chocoate chocoalte.  I had a lemon and a pb cup.  Oink oink!  You can’t only have one of Melisser’s cupcakes.

Tilden Park is kind of amazing in an it’s-huge-and-you-will-get-lost kind of way.  There is a great old style carousel, and after lunch a group of us decided to act like children and go on it.  There are all sorts of beautiful, detailed animals.

Deer, zebra and kitty.

Lion, rooster, frog and horse.  There was also a dog and a panda and lord knows what else.  I chose the frog.  Becca didn’t want to ride because of motion sickness, so she tried to snap pictures of us.

My head is on the left above the rooster head.  Good times!

The next day I drove down to Santa Cruz to meet the NorCal PPK crew at Amey’s house for a potluck.  This was a vegan potluck of a magnitude never achieved before, and quite possibly never matched again.  Here’s the table when I got there, and food seemed to flow in continuously afterwards too.

Overflow area:

My contributions were a layered salad bar-style salad with iceberg, red cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, red and green bell peppers, carrots, peas, red onions, seitan pepperoni, bacos, sunflower seeds, croutons and choice of ranch or balsamic vinaigrette.

And Fatfree Vegan’s Southern-Style Banana Pudding.  This was a big hit – really delicious and very easy to make.  I used EcoPlanet vanilla cookies because they were all I could find, and it worked well.

Obviously, I had to try a little of everything.  Plate 1:  empanada, mini bagel with herb spread, pirogi with caramelized onions, crackers with walnut miso dip, bread with yellow pepper dip, a spring roll with garlic scapes and mandarins and other crazy stuff, and grilled tofu on baguette with some sort of delicious spread.

Plate 2: pasta salad, salad with ranch, chips and guacamole,

I was stuffed at this point and put off dessert as long as I could stand, but it all looked so good!  Some more non-dessert arrived in the meantime, so that’s why there’s green on my mostly-dessert plate:  brussels sprouts with pistachios, braised peach and fig salad, swedish cinnamon roll, raspberries, key lime pie with white chocolate mousse, rice krispy treat, apple coffee cake and banana pudding.

As if all that wasn’t enough, Melisser made a ridiculous dessert.  If I remember correctly it was pie crust, cookie dough, cake AND meringue.  Here she is torching the meringue.

Inside shot.

Group shot!

There were SEVEN doggies at the potluck (three of which were Amey’s), and surprisingly enough I liked them all!  All the doggie owners tried to wrangle them in for a picture.

Here’s the ever-popular Strummer, sunning herself on Megan’s lap.

Our gracious host Amey with Snoopy the cutie-pie.

And my favorite pittbull, Fiona.

After pigging out we all sat around and chatted for a while, then Megan, Melisser, her husband Ryan and I went to downtown Santa Cruz to walk around and check out some shops, so at least I worked off a FEW calories.  Check out Amey’s blog post here, she has more detailed pictures of most of the food.

The next weekend we went to Vegas!  BF’s sister is graduating from her master’s program and wanted to get together to celebrate so a group of 13 of us went, mostly bf’s family and his sister’s boyfriend’s family.  Whew.  We scored an amazing rate at Paris, and really enjoyed staying there.  It’s a comfortable hotel, and the kind of place you wouldn’t really have to leave the whole weekend if you didn’t want to.

We got in late afternoon on Friday, settled in, and ate at a cafe in Paris that really isn’t worth writing about, except for the fact that I got a whole bottle of wine for $8 when most of their single glasses are more than that.

HERE is what Vegas means to me.

Ronald’s Donuts, my friends.  The donuts are out of this world good, they have soy milk for coffee, and I will happily make myself sick eating their apple fritters.  Here I am, slightly hungover and unshowered, in apple fritter heaven.

We had plans for dinner but needed to have a late lunch somewhere, because one cannot exist on apple fritters alone.  Enter Le Burger Brasserie in Paris.  I took a chance that this place would have something I could eat, and I won!  Upon inquiring of the waiter if their veggie burger had any dairy or eggs, he cringed and said “Yeah, I think it does…it has mushrooms, grains, vegan cheese…Wait!  Vegan cheese has no dairy!” and checked with the kitchen to be completely sure.

This was a good, good veggie burger.  The patties are made in-house, and are at least an inch thick and very tasty.  It comes with two topping, but I added one and chose portobello, avocado and caramelized onions.  Seriously, this was one of the best veggie burgers I have ever had and I’d recommend Le Burger Brasserie over the meal I had at Burger Bar easily.

The one caveat about this place is that it’s not cheap.  The burgers don’t come with fries, you have to order them separately.  But I would recommend that you do.

Because their fries are really good, despite the blurry image.  They have steak fries, shoestring fries AND waffle fries and you can get a three fry sampler if you want.

Sometimes when the waiter forgets to ask whether you want an orange or lemon slice with your Widmer and they bring you both, you put them both in.  It’s Vegas, you gotta get a little crazy!

Dinner that night was at The Wynn Buffet, where the lighting apparently does horrible things to my pictures.  Like last time I visited, I didn’t get to check that anything was vegan, but when in doubt went the cautious route.  So don’t take my word for it on this stuff…

Plate 1:  salad with vinaigrette, asparagus and pea salad, strawberries, dried fruit, marinated artichoke, pickles and a little piece of bread.

Plate 2:  pita with hummus and baba ganoush, rice pilaf, curried chickpeas.

Plate 3:  Asian slaw, spicy cucumbers with citrus, sushi, seaweed salad, and the most amazing miso udon which I tried to replicate after the last time I had it but didn’t really come close.

I also had a few bites of sorbet for dessert, but it was nothing picture worthy.  For the life of me I can’t remember where or if we had lunch the next day.  Maybe I just ate a bunch of donuts?

For dinner, we had a date with Hoffbrauhaus, a full-on German-style restaurant like in Beer Fest.  You sit at a long table with other parties, there is a band with an accordion on stage, and the waitresses can carry multiple mugs of beer in one hand.  Look at this perfect pour!

The menu includes two vegetarian entrees, but they’re both laden with cheese or cream, so I asked about a few side dishes and ended up getting three.

Yummy pretzel with sweet mustard.

Cucumber salad, which was good but not worth the $7 it costed.

Red cabbage.  The flavor was good, but they somehow managed to make the cabbage HEAVY.  I couldn’t even finish this small bowl.

I would recommend the Hoffbrauhaus if you’re into that sort of thing, but warn that it is not really within walking distance of the strip.  It may look like it is on a map, but please take a cab!

After dinner we went to Cirque du Soleil Mystere at TI.  It was quite a show, but overall I think I liked La Nouba in Orlando better.  Not that Mystere was bad, it just wasn’t better than La Nouba.  It was also really expensive; our discount tickets were more than I really wanted to pay, but I wasn’t going to miss out on the opportunity.

That was it for us in Vegas, but on the way out of town we stopped off at Ronald’s again.  I had asked around in the Bay Area to see if anyone wanted donuts brought back and had a large response.  So I bought ten half dozens, which didn’t include the donuts I bought for the ride home, or the donuts that the sweet people at Ronald’s GAVE to me!  Here are the donuts I distributed, with my pepper grinder for size reference (and bonus grease spots).

The next weekend, in addition to going to two baseball games, I baked a donation for the San Francisco Worldwide Vegan Bakesale.

These are Chocolate Chip-Raspberry Blondies from Vegan With A Vengeance, but made with Blackberries instead.  They are super-duper good and I can’t believe I waited this long to try them!  I did have a tricky time getting the blackberry filling to work, it kind of seized up and got stringy.  The recipe calls for tapioca powder and I used tapioca flour because I thought they were the same thing.  Anyone know if they’re the same thing?  I added some extra water to the filling and despite being really sticky, it worked out.

Seeing as SF is not a short trip exactly, and I had a hard time getting going that morning, I was a few hours late for the bakesale.  They had already sold out of a lot of items, but had enough to keep going.

We did really well with foot traffic due to our fantasitc location in front of Ike’s.  Ike’s has pretty much the best sandwiches ever (with extensive vegan options), so of course I had to get one.  I really wanted the Paul Reubens special but they had run out of Tofurkey, so I had a “Not So Sloppy” – meatballs and bbq sauce.

So friggin’ good!  And if you order a vegan sandwich they give you a vegan lollipop.

The bakesale was a HUGE success.  Between the two days and locations they raised $3,000 dollars.  Three thousand!  The proceeds were split between Animal Place and East Bay Animal Advocates.  I feel proud to have been a small part of such a great event.  Thanks to Melisser and Laura for organizing!

That brings us to this past weekend, which was the Fourth of July.  We kept it small and just went to a friend’s house to grill, hang out and play board games.  I decided to make a fancy grilled portobello sandwich, and started by marinating some big mushrooms according to this recipe.

During the veggie grilling session (after the grill had been cleaned of any remaining meats) we cooked the portobellos along with pattypan squash and corn.

I served the mushrooms on storebought ciabatta with lettuce, caramelized onions and avocado-horseradish sauce.  Delightful!  The portobellos weren’t the best I’ve ever made, but I think that had more to do with me cooking them over high heat for a few minutes too long than it did with the recipe.

In keeping with my one year tradition of making a red, white and blue dessert, I put together a trifle.  The layers are lemon pound cake from Veganomicon, strawberries, blueberries and coconut whipped cream.  I was going to do a simple silken tofu whipped cream but couldn’t find silken tofu anywhere, so I bought two cans of coconut milk, remembering that I had read somewhere that you could whip it into cream.  I followed the technique of this recipe, using all the cream from the tops of both cans (about 1 1/2 cups), 6 Tbs powdered sugar, 4 Tbs soy milk powder, 1 tsp almond extract, and a pinch of salt.  It did whip up and turned out nicely.

While I was carefully layering the trifle, bf asked me “Why are you arranging it so carefully if you’re just going to cover it up?”.  Well, this is why:

Trifle’s are supposed to look pretty from the side!

And from the top.  It tasted really good too.  There were lots of flavors going on between the vanilla and lemon in the pound cake, the coconut and almond in the cream and the berries, but it came together well and the pound cake had the perfect squishy consistency.

Lastly, here is how Jake likes to spend his time while I’m out galavanting and running around.

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Massive Post of Catch-Upedness

I wanted to get a post up two Fridays ago before I left for Florida, but that did not happen.  Then when I got back it did not happen.  So I feel way behind, and to remedy this situation I’m gonna throw a whole bunch of stuff together right here.  I went to Florida to attend a wedding and visit family and friends.  I was in total vacation mode and didn’t take very many pictures, but those that I did will get their own post soon.

A few weekends ago some vegan friends and I headed up through the Berkeley hills to have a picnic and check out the Lawrence Hall of Science.  Unfortunately, it had rained off and on all weekend and there was nary a dry picnic spot to be found.  So, we did what any sensible people would do and picnicked in my car.

I brought caramelized leek hummus…

…and veggies for dipping.

Becca & Steve brought a sandwich spread, recipe from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan but I don’t know what it’s called.  It had avocado and tomato and tempeh and it was smoky and good.  Becca also made potato salad with Bacos.  Yummy!

I brought gluten-free strawberry shortcake, but was so eager to eat it during the car picnic that I forgot to take a picture.  So here’s a picture of my serving again after dinner that night, and a recipe!  (I sliced the berries here, but am changing the recipe to call for quartering them cause I thought the slices didn’t hold their texture well enough.)  I’m not gonna lie and tell you that you wouldn’t know they’re gluten free, but I think they hold together relatively well and have a nice texture.  I sadly didn’t have any vegan whipped cream to put on top!

Gluten-Free Strawberry Shortcake

To make the recipe non-gluten-free just substitute 1 3/4 all-purpose flour for the g-f baking mix, brown rice flour and xantham gum.  The lemon zest, rosemary and black pepper can be optional if you don’t want those flavors in your dessert, but I think they give it a special something.

1 lb strawberries (2 pints)
1/2 c sugar
1/4 c balsamic vinegar

1 c gluten-free baking mix
3/4 c brown rice flour
3/4 tsp xantham gum
2 Tbs sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 c shortening
6 Tbs soy creamer
1 Tbs fresh lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
1 Tbs fresh rosemary
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Hull and quarter the strawberries. Place in a bowl and add sugar and balsamic vinegar. Stir gently to combine, cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 400F. Place the g-f baking mix, brown rice flour, xantham gum, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl and mix. Cut the shortening into pieces and add to the flour mixture. Cut the shortening into the flour mixture using a pastry cutter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the soy creamer, lemon juice, lemon zest, rosemary and black pepper and stir just until combined.

Turn the dough out onto a surface lightly floured with the g-f baking mix. Using floured hands, knead the dough gently about 10 times. Pat the dough out to a 1/2-inch thickness. Use a floured round cookie cutter or drinking glass to cut out rounds. Transfer the rounds to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Pat out any remaining dough and repeat. Bake the shortcakes for 15-18 minutes or until they start to turn golden brown.

To serve, gently split each shortcake with your fingers or a fork. Spoon some strawberries onto the bottom, replace the top, and top with more strawberries. Spoon extra juice over the shortcake. Serve with vegan whipped cream.

Serves 6.

For dinner that night we grilled.

I tried the new tempehtations from Lightlife, classic bbq flavor.  I was a little wary of eating them plain, but I was pleasantly surprised.  Very tasty!  I’m not sure I’ll be buying them very often because they’re a bit pricey, but if you’re into tasty convenience food then I would definitely recommend them.

Alongside the tempeh are your regular ol’ mushrooms and asparagus, and in the back is…

…an avocado-ranch twice baked potato.  The avocado makes the filling super-creamy without adding any other fats or faux dairy.  BF said the filling was too creamy, but to that I say “whatevs”.  This was a recipe for a contest, so if I don’t get a positive response I will definitely pass it on.

We went to a San Francisco Giants baseball game on Sunday and got to tailgate across the bay!  I made a grain and veggie salad that nobody else seemed too excited about, but that just meant more leftovers for me.

This one had whole wheat orzo, TJ’s harvest grain blend, red bell pepper, cucumber, corn, shredded carrot, fresh dill, rosemary and a dressing of vegennaise, lemon juice and sugar.  I think that was it.  I meant to add a shallot and toasted pine nuts and totally forgot, but it turned out nice without.

We went with skewers again for the main event.  Mine had peppers, onions, zucchini, marinated mushrooms and Tofurkey Italian sausage pieces.

This was my dinner last night:  roasted potato and fava bean salad with miso-mustard dressing.  In the front are sauteed Chinese broccoli and carrots.  This was really good, but it could use a few tweaks before I write up the recipe.  I love fresh fava beans!

And now, some laptop lunches.

4-24 roasted sweet potatoes, chana palak masala, whole wheat orzo, kiwi

4-28 waffles, tofu scramble, veggie sausage patty, maple syrup, fruit salad

4-29 carrots, gherkins, cinnamon-raisin toast, tofu scramble, strawberries

4-30 grit cake, succotash, mango-habanero sauce, pickles,
blueberries, sour gummies

5-1 spaghetti casserole, lettuce, corn, radish & carrot, goddess dressing, prunes, dried apricots & dark mint chocolate

5-4 avocado-ranch twice baked potato, grilled mushrooms & asparagus, bbq tempeh, g-f shortcake with strawberry-balsamic juice in the small container

5-7 pizza with red pepper flakes, dill pickle cashews, orange wedges

5-8 roasted zucchini & carrots with dill, soy nuggets with bbq sauce, chex, sauteed chard, sweet potato-pecan-chocolate chip muffin, prunes

That’s it for tonight!  Coming up will be recipes for my salad stirfry and chard risotto, and how-I-gained-5-pounds-during-6-days-in-Florida.

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